Q&A: Tel Wittmer on obstacles, opportunities that come with being student body president

(Illustration by Julie Freijat | Collegian Media Group)

Anna Schmidt, Collegian opinions editor and junior in journalism: “How has it been being student body president in comparison to how you thought it would be? I’m sure there’s been a lot of changes — senate is completely done online. It’s taken a lot of turns just like everything else.”

Tel Wittmer, student body president and senior in secondary education: “I don’t think there is anything that I was not prepared for or wasn’t anticipating. I think when the pandemic hit, it freaked me out like I think most people, but I wanted to make sure my low never got too low and I kind of just felt like, ‘Well, this is life,’ sometimes pandemics happen in the course of history I guess.

So we’ve done a really good job of adapting. With every technology, whether that’s a chair or a computer, you’re going to have things that make it harder on you — email is a great example. I actually hate email. It’s like 90 percent of my job, responding to email. That’s just an example of with every technology it’s going to make life easier or things easier because that’s what it’s designed to do, like Zoom for example. That’s what we run our student government meeting on. But it also has consequences and new challenges that emerge. So there are some.

But overall it’s been a pretty positive transition and there’s so much opportunity to improve your own growth and leadership experience. I presented to the intern program last night about the executive branch so it’s like, that’s a hard process because you do have a hybrid model. You have interns in person who are learning about student government and you have students online that are learning and so you’re trying to reach those, too. There’s so much opportunity to try to learn how to manage people and your own leadership and to do things during all of this stuff that is going on.

Schmidt: “Have you had any certain notable personal challenges that have come up maybe outside of your position? I know especially during the strict lock down — March, April, May — it was a difficult time for a lot of people just keeping their heads above water and not getting alone and depressed. Or since then, it’s been disappointing to get back to campus and still not have things back to normal. Is there a specific time or challenge that you’ve gone through or overcame?”

Wittmer: “Right now specifically, things have really picked up. I just had my first two tests. In one class in one week … and week after I had another test so [I] was not prepared for that. It kind of hit me by storm and, like I mentioned, it feels like I do about 99 percent of work that is unrelated to class time and I spend about one percent doing my classwork and I feel like I only do it on the weekends.

I’m about 50-50 split. I have like two online classes and three in-person, hybrid classes but they’re all taught by the same teacher and they’re education related so they are kind of like one major class that meets three different times. But anyway, I do a lot of that online work on the weekends and my week is just full of student government responsibilities and meetings and I’m trying to figure out where to fit in my social life and those moments for relationships and meeting with people.

I’m a big caller. I never thought I’d be the kind of guy that would call my friends but I call my friends frequently and talk to them just over the phone. It’s kind of therapeutic for me to process my thoughts and talk.

Interested in hearing more about Wittmer’s experience as student body president and more? Check out the “Collegian Kultivate” podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.